DSS News is a free biweekly newsletter from DSSResources.COM 
about computerized Decision Support Systems.


                      DSS News
                D. J. Power, Editor
          December 4, 2005 -- Vol. 6, No. 26

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     "Briggs & Stratton Harnesses Operational Data"



* Ask Dan! - What is a "performance" dashboard?
* DSS Conferences 
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Releases 


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Ask Dan!

What is a "performance" dashboard?

By Dan Power

A few days ago, I received a very nice promotional brochure from iViz
Group ( about their "innovative Dashboard and Scorecard
software". Also, Wayne Eckerson's new book on performance dashboards
was released recently; so this topic is a timely one. 

What's new? Much has been written about dashboards and the idea
harkens back to the Executive Information Systems (EIS) of the 1980s.
For "old timers" like me, there is little new other than improved
technologies for implementing dashboards. The problems associated
with identifying metrics are still with us, the difficulty in
obtaining data has not gone away, the problems associated with
motivating managers to use such systems remains, and problems with
interpreting and understanding what is displayed on a dashboard is an
ongoing issue. But ... despite ... nevertheless ... the improved
technologies are significant enough for all of us to revisit the
implementation of dashboards.

In a 2004 Intelligent Enterprise article by Stephen Few and edited by
Margy Ross, Few defines a dashboard as "a visual display of the most
important information needed to achieve one or more objectives;
consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can
be monitored at a glance." He then draws the traditional analogy and
notes "Just as the automobile's dashboard provides all the critical
information needed to operate the vehicle at a glance, a BI dashboard
serves a similar purpose whether you're using it to make strategic
decisions for a huge corporation, run the daily operations of a team,
or perform tasks that involve no one but yourself. The means is a
single-screen display; the purpose is to efficiently keep in touch
with the information needed to do something."

Is a dashboard a scorecard? According to Schiff (2004), "A scorecard
is a collection of metrics, and the dashboard is one way to display
scorecard-type information." I agree.

BusinessObjects ( claims its "Dashboard Manager
makes it easy to deliver dashboards across the enterprise, helping
you: align execution with strategy, monitor business metrics and
manage ... Dashboard Manager is designed to provide visibility to
your business activities across your organization. Dashboard Manager
offers metrics, alerting and dashboard management capabilities to
help your organization monitor and understand business activities."
The BusinessObjects Web site has a quick flash tour of their
Dashboard Manager that I recommend to readers unfamiliar with the
latest technologies. Also, many vendors have screen shots from
implementations of their dashboard products at their Web sites.

Dashboards are representations used to create a user interface for a
data-driven DSS. The DSS may be focused on general performance
monitoring and business intelligence or more specifically on
monitoring an important operational activity. A dashboard can also be
used in a model-driven DSS developed from a simulation model for
planning purposes. Dashboard software represents "potential". A
"powerful" user interface development environment should include many
representations including, dashboard "gauges", maps, charts, indicator
lights, and even tables. A data-driven DSS application developer then
uses this software following interactions with targeted users to
create an interface for monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
and displaying data.

Alex Kirtland in an article tiled "Executive Dashboards" at explains a dashboard should: 1) answer fundamental
questions about the business or business unit; 2) alert the user to
issues or problems in such areas as production, sales, and revenue;
and 3) help make decisions that impact the business. That is a lot to
expect from a DSS!!

Kirtland notes "The heart of any dashboard is the KPI." He means a
dashboard is ineffective if KPIs are poorly defined and/or the KPI
information is poorly displayed. A dashboard may compare actual with
budgeted results, display current and leading indicators, and use
historical data for comparison purposes for indicators.

Is their anything new to say about dashboards? YES. Let's closely
examine the traditional analogy associated with dashboards that
compares a business to an automobile. A dashboard is the control
information panel of a car that contains gauges used to measure
speed, distance traveled, and provide alerts. It is generally located
in front of the driver. But an automobile also has a rearview mirror
and windows for navigation support. A driver uses a steering wheel to
adjust the direction of the auto. Heating controls, a turn signal
lever, and windshield wiper controls allow a driver to perform
important tasks. Also a car has an accelerator pedal and a brake
pedal which change the values displayed on the dashboard. The
speedometer changes as a driver accelerates or brakes. 

In a business, what is a similar metric for a speedometer? Remember
this should be a display of real-time data. Do we want to focus on
the hourly volume of product sales, the number of patients entering a
hospital or the production rate in a factory? And what about the
odomoter and trip odometer, do we use a measure of sales and then
monitor sales for a particular event like a new marketing campaign?
Also, what are the rear view mirrors and windows for a manager? They
are part of the managers decision support environment. What controls
can a manager manipulate? How direct is the ability to change
acceleration, e.g., change marketing expenditures and price? Also,
what is the brake, is it a slow down in production or a change in

Remember that with an automobile, the trip planning and routing
occurs prior to and during a trip. Computerized decision support
systems can help us with that as well. Also, in automobiles, we've
added new gadgets like global positioning systems with map displays
-- perhaps we need similar new devices for business managers. A
business is NOT an automobile. Automation has not progressed to the
point where managers have direct control of steering, acceleration or
braking. In general, a dashboard is intended to support operational
decisions, it is much harder to identify metrics that will be useful
for strategic level managers. 

What about Wayne's book? Wayne Eckerson is the Director of Research
for The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI). His new book is titled
"Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your
Business". Eckerson interviewed managers in dozens of organizations
that have built various types of performance dashboards. I haven't
had the chance to read the book, but Wayne is covering the right
topics. He has an example of an operational dashboard at Quicken
Loans; a tactical dashboard at International Truck and Engine; and a
strategic dashboard at Hewlett Packard. I'll be curious to see what
former NCR Chief Executive Mark Hurd has implemented at HP. Wayne's
book has 15 chapters including an appendix titled "Criteria for
evaluating performance dashboards". Perhaps someone will do a book
review for DSS News.

If the analysis and design of KPIs is flawed, the dashboard will have
little value. Also, we need to be willing to collect new data when
necessary. IMHO it is a mistake to only use data in operational data
stores to define KPIs. Also, let's acknowledge that creating the
presentation front end of a data-driven DSS is a "design challenge".
Remember -- buy the books before you buy the dashboard.


BusinessObjects, "Performance Management Products: Dashboard

Eckerson,W., Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and
Managing Your Business," John Wiley & Sons, September 2005, ISBN:

Few, S., "Dashboard Confusion," Intelligent Enterprise, March 20,

Kirtland, A., "Executive Dashboards,", November
24, 2003 at URL .

Power, D., "Where can I find information about KPIs for building DSS
in different industries?" DSS News, Vol. 3, No. 18, September 1,

Rittman, M., "Building BI Dashboards with Oracle Database 10g, Oracle
Discoverer, and Oracle Portal," .

Schiff, C. "Maximize Business Performance: Industry Dashboards to the
Rescue," Column published in,
August 1, 2004 at URL .


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DSS Conferences 

1. Third Annual Pre-ICIS Workshop on Decision Support
Systems sponsored by AIS SIG DSS, December 11, 2005, Las Vegas,
Nevada. Workshop URL: .

2. ISCRAM2006, the Third International Conference on Information 
Systems for Crisis Response and Management, Newark, New Jersey, USA, 
at the New Jersey Institute of Technology from May 14-17, 2006.
Check .

3. ICKEDS'06, the Second International Conference on Knowledge
Engineering and Decision Support, Lisbon, Portugal, May 9-12, 2006.
Check .

4. CIDMDS 2006, International Conference on Creativity and
Innovation in Decision Making and Decision Support 
sponsored by IFIP WG 8.3, June 28th - July 1st 2006, London,
UK. Check .

5. DEXA 2006, 17th International Conference on Database 
and Expert Systems Applications, September 4-8, 
2006, Krakow, Poland. Check .


 Call for Nominations: AIS SIG DSS Award for Best Journal 
     Article 2005, nominations due March 15, 2006. 
     Check .


What's New at DSSResources.COM

12/02/2005 Posted case by SAS Staff, "Briggs & Stratton Harnesses
Operational Data". 


DSS News Releases - November 20 to December 2, 2005
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

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11/28/2005 SGI demonstrates portfolio of government solutions at
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11/28/2005 U.S. Air Force contracts with Stottler Henke to develop
software toolkit for creating computer-based war games.

11/23/2005 Intergraph employee receives 2005 USGIF Military
Achievement Award.

11/23/2005 CIOs still seen as 'Techies' says UMT.

11/22/2005 Videoconferencing to emerge as a productivity tool for the
knowledge worker.

11/22/2005 Business Objects prevails against MicroStrategy in appeal
of patent infringement and business tort case.

11/21/2005 Informed Decisions, Mississippi Medicaid roll out
eMPOWERx(TM) program to top-prescribing providers.

11/21/2005 Xbox 360 arrival spawns midnight madness frenzy.

11/21/2005 NAG announces major new release of its numerical library
for C and C++ programmers.


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